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Orangutan trio bound for the USA

Orangutan trio bound for the USA

Three of Auckland Zoo’s six Bornean orangutans fly out to L.A. tonight bound for new homes at Los Angeles Zoo and Florida’s Busch Gardens to help progress the international breeding programme for this endangered great ape.

Orangutan pair, 25-year-old female Gangsa and 21-year-old male Isim are relocating to Los Angeles Zoo, while 10-year-old male Madju will start a new life at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, where he’ll be paired up with breeding female, Luna.

Auckland Zoo primate team leader Amy Robbins, who has worked with the Zoo’s orangutans for the past 15 years, says while it’s tough losing much-loved family as these orangutans have become, the move is a positive and important one.

“Gangsa, Isim and Madju are extremely genetically valuable animals that will move to the top of the gene pool in America, where they can all breed and contribute to the U.S. Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Bornean orangutans.

“Like Auckland Zoo’s remaining orangutans, they’ll continue to play a vital advocacy role for their wild counterparts, who right now in Borneo are the victims of one of the world’s worst man-made environmental disasters. Deliberately lit forest fires by companies clearing land for cheap palm oil and paper products continue to devastate their rainforest home. If this continues, orangutans could be extinct in the wild in just a few years, so it’s more important than ever to raise awareness of their plight, and do all we can to help,” says Ms Robbins.

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All three USA-bound orangutans have custom-build aluminium crates containing familiar comforts like shredded paper and blankets for nest building, water feeders, and lunchboxes of fruit treats. The trio will travel in the hold of an Air New Zealand 777 passenger plane, and as ‘VIPs’, will be last on and first off following their 12-hour night flight.

“Moving great apes half-way across the world is a massive logistical undertaking, but we’ve planned and prepared extensively to help ensure a smooth a transition as possible for them,” says Amy Robbins.

At L.A. Airport the trio will be met by familiar faces - Auckland Zoo primate keeper Emma Staunton and senior vet, Dr An Pas. Both will stay on for a period at Los Angeles Zoo where Gangsa, Isim, and Madju will first undergo their required six-week quarantine.

Other recognisable faces will be Busch Gardens’ senior primate keeper Dawn Costanzo and orangutan assistant curator Jay Duncan, who have spent the past 10 days at Auckland Zoo, working alongside the Primate team to get to know 10-year old Madju.

“We love Madju already, he’s a real character, and I think he’ll be a great fit for our orangutan group. We have a very similar training programme to Auckland Zoo and our female Luna, who we hope will become Madju’s mate, is like him - smart, full of character and loves people,” says Dawn, who will be Madju’s primary keeper.


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